“A gorgeous romantic 18th-century gite for slow living and self-catering, surrounded by meadows, bucolic countryside and cideries (sleeps 4-6)”
We loved La Vie de Cocagne, and thought it would suit everybody from a couple, a multi-generational family, to a group of 4-6 friends. On the ground floor are two double bedrooms, both ensuite with slate shower rooms, and decorated with equal flair so no-one need feel they've got the short straw. The queen size chocolate room opens onto the garden, while the Nun's room, where we stayed, has a vintage mirror above the bed. Organic toiletries of soap and shampoo are provided, as are plenty of blankets, bathrobes, slippers, big soft towels and bottles of water bedside.
Up steep stairs, the twin guest room has lovely exposed beams, oil portraits on the wall, and bright Union Flag cushions. This would be the best room for a child or two and has its own toilet. There are no extra beds, but there is a baby cot on request.
Downstairs, there's a large living room with a high ceiling, a lovely place to lounge in front of the wood-burning stove on either of the chocolate-brown sofas or the upholstered armchair. There's a DVD player and extensive library of books and DVDs plus satellite TV, and a Bose system to plug in your iPod or iPhone. Glass jars filled with pine cones, large pillar candles, stuffed antelope heads on the wall and a shimmering chandelier add an extra dash of style.
Food is at the heart of this gite - specifically food that you can prepare together, then sit and enjoy at a relaxed pace. The small slate kitchen leads on to the dining area, where there's a table and 6 chairs, plus you get an outdoor table and chairs on the terrace outside.
You'll find Thierry and Caroline have placed breakfast items in the fridge for your arrival. Expect eggs, yoghurt, butter from the farm, bread, orange juice, local jam, milk and white wine - this may vary seasonally. i-escape guests also get cider and local cheese. Cupboards are stocked with seasoning and spices, olive oil, mustard, flour, coffee, and cleaning products. Caroline will often provide a little extra something if cooking - for us delectable chocolate mousse.
The fully equipped kitchen is a modern design dream, with slate worktops, shiny steel appliances and beautiful classic crockery and glassware. In summer you can barbecue on the terrace; and, with notice, arrange for additional groceries to be supplied.
For your next meals, pop in to Bonnebosq's lovely food market. The town has a butcher, baker, a good regional restaurant (you'll need to book L'Auberge des Deux Tonneaux) and is on the cider route - so you'll find plenty of apple-based tipples. On Mondays, when Bonnebosq's shops close, you can stock up in Pont l'Eveque. Regional specialties include Camembert, Pont L'Eveque and Livarot cheeses, mussels, oysters and scallops. Don't forget to buy some Calvados for digestifs.
There are plenty of other good restaurants in the countryside - the folder in the living room will have suggestions, as will Thierry and Caroline. If you want a real treat, head to Honfleur, where among a plethora of eateries are two Michelin-starred restaurants (Sa Qua Na receives rave reviews).
We think this is a great place for a family with well-behaved older kids or for babies (although there is no high chair or bath tub on the premises), grandparents could easily take one of the two Master bedrooms for example. The focus of the place is on being outdoors, eating well, walking in the fields, going to the beach and living life at a slower pace.
It's not so good, however, for excitable children who want thrills, spills and endless attractions, and not recommended for toddlers as there would be too many breakables - the crockery is on open shelves in the living room for example.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
There are 2 main ensuite bedrooms and a twin guest room upstairs which is best for older children as the stairs are steep. There is a cot available for babies. Both bathrooms are shower only, though; not ideal with tiny ones.
Babysitting can be arranged; ask in advance. Perfect if you want to go to one of Honfleur's world-class restaurants
A baby monitor will work throughout the house, you will need to bring your own
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The kitchen is fully equipped with dishwasher, microwave and hand-held blender, and you can request ingredients to be delivered prior to your arrival. You can buy everything you need in the nearby town of Bonnebosq. Note you would have to bring your own plastic cutlery and crockery.
Children under 12 are not allowed in the Jacuzzi. Parents will need to watch children when the cover of the hot-tub is removed. A stylish place such as this comes with its fair share of breakables so it really isn't suitable for toddlers plus there are quite steep stairs going up to the guest room.